Tag Archives: smories

Writing a Picture Book Query

_S070083-1 by nuttakit

For those of you who have been following my progress in the smories.com competition with my picture book entry ‘Can You Jump Like a Kangaroo‘ I have some good news to share. The competition ended two days ago and my story came in third! It may not have been first, but I was still extremely happy to win a place. Now I am preparing to query the story to publishers.

Writing a Picture Book Query: The Dilemma

I frequent quite a few agent and writing blogs and have collected a plethora of information on querying, however now I am faced with writing a query for a picture book I’ve found all my previous research on queries, which has primarily focused on querying novels, is not quite adequate for writing a PB query. I sat at my computer with a word document open, typed the initial salutation and then stopped. I know how to condense a 50k + word novel into a paragraph, I’ve written and rewritten queries for my YA novel many times over, but how do I write a paragraph summary of a picture book that’s only 147 words?

Sourcing Blogs for Query Writing Tips

I checked out a few picture book queries kidlit agent Mary Kole had commented upon on her blog during a query competition she held a while back to get some ideas (she has since removed these posts, but she has another post on picture book queries here, which I’ve also linked below). Through looking at these examples with comments from an agent who specialises in kidlit I was able to gain some insight into how a pictures book plot can be written in a query letter. I discovered channeling the voice of the book was a good first step. I wrote out my query with a better idea on how I could approach describing the story, but I still wasn’t sure if I was hitting the mark.

Seeking the Opinions of Those Who Have Written Successful Queries

I decided to seek out the opinions of two lovely Australian picture book authors I met through #pblitchat on Twitter. Kathryn Apel is the author of picture book This is the Mud and Karen Collum is the author of several picture books including one due out this September titled Samuel’s Kisses. I regard them both as being great sources of knowledge on all things PB related. They both gave me some great advice on writing a PB query. Here are the main points they made:

– Capture the heart and tone of your story in the query.

– Use small section of text from your book.

– Keep it short and sweet, one to two paragraphs is enough.

– Give the whole story in a nutshell, including the ending.

Armed with this great advice I shaped my query to match more with the tone of my story, with some little excerpts from the text weaved into it.

Query Critique

My query still needs some polishing so I’ve submitted it to the Query Kick-Around on YA Lit Chat (which also accomodates other types of kidlit, including picture books) and hopefully I’ll receive some helpful critique from some of the other members there.

Next step: Sending the queries to publishers here in Australia. I’ve got a list of a few of the publishers currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts for picture books, so hopefully one of them will love my story enough to publish it.

UPDATE:

Since I wrote this post a few sites/blogs have popped up with some helpful information on writing picture book queries, so I thought it might be helpful to update this post with some links.

Mary Kole on kidlit.com made a post specifically on how to write a picture book query: Picture Book Queries

The Query Shark bites into a picture book query: Query Shark #178

Looking for PB query critiques? The Write on Con forums have a section specifically dedicated to critiquing PB queries. Registration is free at the time of this post and it’s a site well worth joining if you’re a kidlit writer: Write on Con

Here is a helpful webinar video from Write on Con with Emma Walton Hamilton (aka The Query Whisperer): Picture Book Query Letters.

ANOTHER UPDATE:

Another great resource that’s cropped up in the last few years is the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. As well as providing great resources on picture book queries, you also get access to webinars from industry professionals that sometimes include helpful information on crafting picture book queries and even sometimes opportunities to have your query critiqued by a professional (such as the fabulous Emma Walton Hamilton). There is also access to a query critique forum where you can receive critique from fellow (often experienced) PB writers on your picture book query. While it does cost to join 12 x 12, it is a worthwhile investment for picture book writers who are serious about submitting to agents and editors. 12 x 12 is open to new members from about mid-January through to the end of February.

UPDATE (Feb 2016):

I’ve recently come across a post on picture book query writing from agent Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary Agency. She offers three great tips specific to picture book queries. You can find the post here: How to Query a Picture Book.

Picture by nuttakit

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Can You Jump Like A Kangaroo?

I have some exciting news to share today. I mentioned not long ago that a children’s picture book story I submitted to smories.com was shortlisted. All the shortlisted stories have now been filmed and posted to the site. You can see my story here:

Can You Jump Like A Kangaroo?

Submissions have just closed for their third and final competition, but they will be starting something new. Once competition three is over they will be posting a story a day on the site. Submissions are now open for anyone who wants to submit a children’s story to be featured as one of the stories a day. While you don’t win anything for these stories, it’s great exposure for you as a writer. You can even set up your own author bio page on the site. Here is a link to their submissions page:

smories.com

NaPiBoWriWee: Now it’s over

What a busy week! NaPiBoWriWee officially ended at midnight on Friday. (See Paula Yoo’s NaPiBoWriWee 2010 wrap-up blog post here) I managed to get four and a half picture books written. It wasn’t the seven I was aiming for, but I’m still quite happy with what I got written. It was a great learning process. If you think writing a picture book a day is easy, it’s not! I learned that putting myself into my son’s world is a great way to find inspiration for picture book stories. I also learned that asking a three-year-old for ideas is not such a great idea (My story about a red button, a lion, a kitchen and a girl was a huge flop). A couple of my stories are still quite rough, and I didn’t finish the story idea my 3-year-old suggested because it just wasn’t working for me. One of the stories I really quite like and I want to revise it and polish it up at some point. For now though I’m going back to revisions on my novel.

For those who participated you may be wondering what you can do with those picture books you wrote during NaPiBoWriWee. I mentioned in an earlier post a website called smories.com where every month picture book writers have the opportunity to submit a picture book story. The best 50 are chosen and videos of children reading them are posted on the site. I just found out my picture book “Can You Jump Like A Kangaroo” has been shortlisted this month and the video of a child reading it will be posted on the site on the 1st of June! If you want to submit a picture book story to their newest competition just go here:

Submit a story

If you know of any other picture book opportunities I would love for you to tell us about them in the comments.

I would also love to hear how others did  for NaPiBoWriWee. Did you get 7 books written in 7 days? Or, like me, did you find real life made it difficult to find the time to get them all done? Maybe your muse left you halfway through. Did you learn anything along the way?

*icon from Paula Yoo’s blog

NaPiBoWriWee

I promised in my last post I would talk about NaPiBoWriWee (it’s a little later than intended because I’ve been sick this past week).

In November I blogged about participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where the idea is to write a novel (50,000 words) in one month. NaPiBoWriWee (National Picture Book Writing Week) follows a similar concept. The idea is to write seven picture books in seven days. It is still quite new, as this is only the second year it has run. It will be taking place from May 1 to May 7. You can visit Paula Yoo’s website to find out more information (and join in the NaPiBoWriWee fun:

NaPiBoWriWee

Since I’ve finished my first lot of edits on my novel I thought NaPiBoWriWee would be a nice break and an opportunity to try something different. Now I just have to think of some picture book ideas to use! It’s always a good idea to have a few back-up ideas too in case any of them don’t work out (or your muse refuses to cooperate).

What does a picture book entail?

I found this description from right-writing.com:

Picture books — Traditionally, picture books (also called “picture story books”) are 32-page books for ages 4-8 (this age may vary slightly by publisher). Manuscripts are up to 1500 words, with 1000 words being the average length. Plots are simple (no sub-plots or complicated twists) with one main character who embodies the child’s emotions, concerns and viewpoint. The illustrations (on every page or every other page) play as great a role as the text in telling the story. Occasionally a picture book will exceed 1500 words; this is usually geared toward the upper end of the age spectrum. Picture books cover a wide range of topics and styles. The list of Caldecott Medal winners, available from your library, is a good place to start your research. Nonfiction in the picture bookformat can go up to age 10, 48 pages in length, or up to about 2000 words of text.

And if you do decide to participate in NaPiBoWriWee and don’t know what to do with your finished products, there’s a new site called smories where authors can submit their picture book text every month. The best ones get chosen to be read aloud by children on the site and then voted on. The best stories win cash prizes. It’s also a lovely way to share your stories with children (since the site is primarily a way for children to hear stories read to them by other children).

Is anyone else participating in NaPiBoWriWee this year?

*icon from Paula Yoo’s blog